Did you know that the Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus all look deceptively similar, but are actually different plants? They are named after the time of year they normally bloom,each around their namesake holiday. Easter cactus, which blooms in spring, actually belongs to an entirely different family!
The Christmas cactus has rounded scalloped leaves, while the Thanksgiving cactus has pointy leaf tips. The Easter cactus also has more rounded scalloped edges.
Holiday Cactus Care
Luckily, caring for all three kinds of holiday cactus is essentially the same.
In most growing zones, they are not considered hardy and will need to be kept as a houseplant year round or brought indoors during the colder months. Unlike their desert cactus cousins that require a warm and dry environment, Christmas cacti prefer humidity and moisture. They like bright, indirect light, and temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Make A Christmas Cactus Rebloom
Many holiday cacti rebloom each year on their own. However, to ensure blooming at the right time, there are a few extra steps you can take.
Once the plant has ceased all flowering, or about 6-8 weeks before you want it to rebloom, you should allow the plant to begin its dormancy cycle.
First, cut back on watering and reduce both light and temperature. The plant should receive 12-14 hours of darkness per day, with an average temperature of only 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to put the holiday cactus in total darkness, away from any indoor or outdoor lights. These forced “long nights” are meant to imitate what the plant would experience in its native region.
Once the flower buds appear, slowly acclimate it back to its original location and resume normal care.
Potting Holiday Cactus
This type of plant is happiest when its roots are slightly crowded so repotting should be infrequent.
If, after a few years, your plant needs a new container, be sure to use a porous, lightweight, well-drained cactus potting mix in a pot with a drainage hole. You should repot a Christmas cactus after it has finished blooming.
Fertilizer for Holiday Cacti
The Christmas cactus does not need or want frequent fertilization, but a dose once a month during the non-blooming season can be helpful. A mild solution of a general houseplant fertilizer or specific formula for cacti and succulents is recommended.
Pruning a Holiday Cactus
You can prune a Christmas cactus annually if needed. Cut between two leaf segments, or cut the entire plant back by one third.
Propagating a Christmas Cactus
You can easily propagate a Christmas cactus by taking a short Y-shaped segment, letting it sit out for a few days to heal, then burying one quarter of its length into cactus mix. Keep the cuttings slightly moist and in just 2 weeks, you will have new roots!